SALT LAKE CITY — Thanks to a gutty 32-minute performance Friday night, Skyline's boys basketball team has gone from the hunter to the hunted.
With low expectations coming into the year, the upstart Eagles won their fourth straight game and seized control of the Region 7 race with a 59-52 victory over Olympus in front of a packed gymnasium.
"Great win tonight, and now the bull's-eye is firmly on (our) back. Now we'll see how we respond to success," said Skyline coach Derek Bunting. "Now we're the hunted. It's more fun being the hunter, but this is where we want to be. Hopefully we'll keep improving."
Skyline led the entire game, showing poise down the stretch that you'd typically expect from a higher-ranked home team. Instead, it was the Titans who buckled under the pressure, missing countless free throws in the fourth quarter that could have swayed momentum their way.
Olympus' biggest misses came early in the fourth quarter when Skyline appeared vulnerable.
Leading 40-28 midway through the third quarter, Skyline slipped into an offensive funk over the next five minutes, allowing Olympus to claw back to 44-40 on a Will Cannon layup with 7:16 left in the fourth quarter.
The Titans had two opportunities to cut into the lead further, but they missed the front end of back-to-back one-and-one situations.
Those misses seemed to refocus Skyline as it extended the lead to 49-40 over the next three minutes and never let it dip below five as Olympus continued to miss big shots from the foul line.
"Our message to them was the team that is most composed on the floor tonight is the team that is going to win, and we have to keep our composure, run our stuff, play our game and not get caught up in the excitement of the moment … and I thought our kids did that," said Bunting.
Point guard DeSean Miller was the catalyst all night for the Eagles, as his slashing to the basket and finishing gave Olympus fits. He finished with 23 points and showed great poise down the stretch.
"It was mind blowing, bigger than the state tournament to me. Small gym, all compact, emotions. It was a great feeling," said Miller.
Garrett England added 16 points for Skyline, which improved to 4-0 in Region 7 with the victory while dropping Olympus to 3-1.
The Eagles' tenacious defense from the opening tip was huge as well. They clogged the lane, limiting Olympus leading scorer Cannon to eight points and rendering the Titans to a perimeter team. On some nights that's a bad idea, but on Friday Olympus only shot 36 percent from the field despite making eight 3-pointers.
"I think our kids just played really hard tonight. There's still mistakes made, but you can make up for a lot of defensive mistakes with effort, and I think our kids put in definitely their best effort of the season tonight," said Bunting.